What Is It You Need To Do?

Something I’ve noticed that has gone unchanged all of my years as a UX person is that, when it comes to product development & UX, companies want to know what their users are currently doing. That’s fine–companies need to be aware of the current user experience. And it’s even more fine if the company knows that what their users are currently doing is what they need to be doing, but in many instances I’ve not found that to be the case. So, much of my work has been helping companies to band aid their existing user experiences rather than innovate to repair or improve.

But it is a bit difficult getting companies to understand that, while it’s fine to constantly tinker with things here or there in an effort to fix what’s broken when it comes up, attention needs to be paid to the development of experiences based around what people need to do. Often times asking people the question, “Is this what your customer needs to do at this point?” is met with, “Well, that’s what we let them do currently.” And the discussion from that point goes on to how to develop the same experience in a new package. If I dig further to understand why the current experience is what it is, I usually find that little or no research has been done around actual tasks. So, many times I see companies creating processes based around “We know someone wants to buy a kitchen cart.” But there is no consideration to how people think about certain activites and when they need to perform those activities.

The other sad–and frustrating–thing I have found is, companies are not leveraging their researchers appropriately. Most of the time the researchers are relegated to a lab environment where the methodology is canned: Limited activities are performed with restricted outputs. This gets old and useless very quick. Allowing UX researchers to study what users need is an integral part of product development as, not only will it lead to the creation of a better user experience when all is said and done, but it also saves the company money in the long term by cutting down on nitpicky fixes that cost man hours and development dollars.

Alas, it is that last point that is the hardest to communicate despite being the most important. But it is one worth insisting upon communicating to others. It not only benefits the company overall, but it also keeps the UX team relevant within the organization.